Antoine Griezmann record: Is Atletico Madrid forward one of the greatest players of his era? - BBC Sport

Antoine Griezmann record: Is Atletico Madrid forward one of the greatest players of his era?

By Andy WestSpanish football writer
Antoine Griezmann stands with his hands on his hips during a pause in play
Antoine Griezmann has earned 127 caps for France, winning the 2018 World Cup and 2021 Nations League

How good is Antoine Griezmann?

The France forward made history in Wednesday's Spanish Supercup match against Real Madrid, netting his 174th goal for Atletico Madrid to overtake the legendary Luis Aragones as the club's all-time leading scorer.

Griezmann was a key member of France's World Cup-winning team in 2018, is the sixth-most expensive player in history, has twice been on the Ballon d'Or podium - finishing third in 2016 and 2018 - and was widely regarded as La Liga's best player in 2023.

Yet one could suggest not many fans rate the 32-year-old among the best in the world - his 21st place in last year's Ballon d'Or awards an indication of his perception in the game.

Is that fair? Or, after his record-breaking feat for Atletico, should we be talking about Griezmann as a 21st-century great?

Antoine Griezmann holds the World Cup trophy aloft
Griezmann played a crucial role as France won the 2018 World Cup in Russia

Talent and versatility

One difficulty in placing Griezmann within the game's elite is that he is so hard to define as a player.

He is neither a target-man centre-forward nor winger, though often fulfils both roles. He is not a support striker or number-10 playmaker. He could currently be described as an attacking midfielder - albeit one who has the intelligence, stamina and humility to cover whatever position might be necessary at any given time, including defending his own penalty area.

This is why Griezmann is so beloved by Atletico manager Diego Simeone, who insists upon hard work above all else and will ruthlessly turn his back on players - such as Joao Felix - who are not prepared to get their knees dirty for the team, no matter how talented they may be.

Griezmann has the lot: he is an incisive passer, an astute reader of the game, an excellent finisher and a tireless worker. Quick off the mark, decent in the air and a strong tackler, he possesses pretty much every quality you could ask for, which is why he is able to fulfil so many roles for his team.

But it also means he is overlooked when it comes to conversations about the world's best strikers, playmakers or wingers - because he is simultaneously all of those things but not really any of them.

And there is another major aspect that counts against him: trophies.

Griezmann holds his hand to his head as walks across the Nou Camp pitch
Antoine Griezmann scored 35 goals in 102 appearances during his time with Barcelona

Tough times at Barca

The crowning moment of Griezmann's career came in 2018, when he played a key role in France's World Cup triumph. He was named man of the match in the final against Croatia, and the third-best player in the tournament behind Luka Modric and Eden Hazard.

On the domestic front, however, Griezmann's trophy cabinet is strikingly bare.

He has won one Spanish Cup, one Europa League and a couple of Super Cups - and that's it.

His 瞿107m move to Barcelona in 2019, a year after he publicly rejected the Nou Camp club, was supposed to be Griezmann's opportunity to stock up on silverware as he joined a potent forward line alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

It did not work out that way. Barca as a team and a club were in disarray, lurching between financial and footballing crises as years of bad management and overindulgence came to a sorry climax.

Griezmann walked into the middle of that mess and found, perhaps unsurprisingly, he could not flourish alongside Messi because they liked to operate in similar spaces.

The positional constraints imposed upon Griezmann to fit into Barca's system, with only Messi given the freedom to roam, did not allow the Frenchman to display all his qualities, and his time at the Nou Camp was consequently underwhelming.

There were some highlights - notably an outstanding performance in the 2021 Copa del Rey final to inspire a 4-0 victory over Athletic Club - and his record of 35 goals in 102 appearances means his time at Barcelona cannot be labelled a failure.

But that Spanish Cup was the only trophy he won with the club, so in terms of silverware it was certainly disappointing - especially as his former club Atletico Madrid, led by the goals of his old team-mate Suarez, went on to win La Liga without him.

Antoine Griezmann runs to embrace manager Diego Simeone
Griezmann returned to Atletico Madrid from Barcelona on a loan deal in 2021 before making the move permanent in 2022

Back to Atletico

Another ironic twist came in the summer of 2021 when Messi sensationally left Barca, seemingly opening the door for Griezmann to become the team's attacking star.

But the club's financial problems were so deep they had to find a way of getting Griezmann's wages off the books, so he was loaned back to Atletico despite strong opposition from many of the club's fans who were angered by his departure two years earlier.

Griezmann, though, kept his head down and worked his way back into the affections of Rojiblancos fans, and the loan was turned into a permanent transfer in October 2022.

Last season was arguably the best of his career, reaping 17 goals and 22 assists as Atletico recovered from a poor start to finish third in La Liga, displaying a free-flowing attacking style that marked a major development in Simeone's decade in charge and placed Griezmann firmly at the centre of their approach.

This season has been similar, with Griezmann named La Liga's player of the month for November and spearheading their cruise into the Champions League knockout stages as group winners.

Now the major personal milestone of overtaking Aragones to become Atletico's all-time leading scorer has been achieved, his place in the club's history books is assured.

But if he isn't able to claim more silverware during the remainder of his time with the club, his wider reputation will perhaps never reach the heights he deserves.

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